You can rent a car, rent a house—but rent a chicken? If you’ve been on the fence about keeping chicken, Pennsylvania-based company Rent The Chicken offers a solution. With locations nationwide and in Canada, the outfit provides all the materials and knowledge necessary to get started. At the end of the lease, renters can decide to return or keep their chickens.
Husband and wife co-founders, Phil and Jenn Tompkins—known to customers as “Homestead Phil” and “Homestead Jen”—talk about how they’re hatching a new generation of chicken farmers.
How does Rent The Chicken work?
Jenn Tompkins: We provide all the supplies you need at delivery:
- portable chicken coop
- two or four laying hens, depending on the package
- feed for the rental
- oyster shells
- Lisa Steele’s book Fresh Eggs Daily (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013)
- a tutorial
- full support via phone, text, email or video chat
The Standard Rental Package with two hens lay about a dozen eggs a week, while the Deluxe Rental Package with four hens lay about two dozen eggs per week.
Within two days of arrival, your chickens will lay eggs ready to use! These eggs have 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fats, and two times more omega-3 fatty acids than store-bought eggs because you have control what your chickens eat.
How does your business benefit your customers? The chickens?
JT: Since the trend of having backyard chickens has grown, the number of chickens being dropped off at the pound, SPCA locations and pet rescues has increased. We believe that through our rentals, the number of chickens being dropped at these types of places has decreased. If our renters “chicken out,” we pick up our hens, their coop and supplies—no questions asked.
Rent The Chicken is a way for our renters to have farm fresh eggs without the commitment. We provide a turnkey option to bring one simple food source closer to their table with full support. Years ago everyone either had chickens of their own or knew someone who had chickens. Now, it’s not unusual for our renters to not know anyone who has chickens. That’s why our full support during the rental is important.
Tell me about the business. Is it a franchise?
JT: “Homestead Phil” and I are the co-founders of Rent The Chicken, which we started in the summer of 2013. We offer an Affiliate Program for other farmers and homesteaders to have supplemental income of helping others to transition from zero chickens to two or four chickens in their backyard.
Who participates in chicken rental? And how many decide to keep the chickens?
JT: When we first started Rent The Chicken, we made the assumption that our target market would be “hipsters” in the city. That isn’t the case. Our demographic really consists of a broad spectrum of ages of people interested in getting back to roots of generations past and bringing food sources closer to their tables. We’ve had both urban folks, as well as people with 10-plus acres of land.
Over 20 percent of our renters rent the same hens a second year, while another 20-percent adopt their hens at the end of the rental.